“We have a tremendous amount of respect for the original Marathon games and, from the very start, we’ve wanted to honor that, especially the mythology, story, and themes of the world. At the same time, our vision for this game is something new. It’s not a direct sequel to the originals, but something that certainly belongs in the same universe and that feels like a Bungie game. Finding those opportunities to nod to the universe’s lore, while also getting to build something different and new has been one of the best parts of developing this game so far. It’s our aim to create something incredible both for players who are completely new to the Marathon world and for those that have been waiting years for more stories in the Marathon universe. You don’t need to know anything about Marathon to understand or play this game, but if you do, we’re making the experience with references and deep cuts you’ll recognize.”
There’s a little more to it than that, though. According to the Marathon website, the new game takes place in 2850. The original Marathon took place in 2794, though the latest known events in the Marathon universe stretch to as far as 12811. At present, though, not much is canonically known about what, exactly, happened in the Marathon universe during that rough 2850 time period.
The new Marathon also references clone technology that has led to the creation of synthetic bodies with conscious shifting abilities. It seems that the game will task players with controlling “Runners” who must explore a colony in the Tau Ceti system after the arrival of a mysterious ship causes the colony’s 30,000 residents to disappear. The colony is apparently filled with riches such as advanced AI technology, though competing runners pose a significant threat to your efforts to acquire any of those treasures.
This is where the first game’s plot clearly comes into play. 1994’s Marathon revolved around the crew of the Marathon ship attempting to settle the fourth planet in the Tau Ceti system. A colony is established, but both the Marathon and the colony are attacked by a race of alien slavers known as the Pfhor. Eventually, the Pfhor are able to destroy the colony and most of the members of the ship’s crew. Only a few are eventually revealed to have survived the incident.
Based on what we know and suspect, it sounds like the new Marathon will basically see you explore the aftermath of the Pfhor’s attack on the colony. While that means that the game will likely include quite a few references to the original title (some much more obvious than others), that choice of time and place means that most of the game will likely not feature major characters or plot points from the original Marathon games. As Barret said, you probably shouldn’t expect many significant new details so far as the franchise mythology goes.
We’ll wait to see what does happen in the new game, but this decision makes sense from a lore perspective. The original Marathon certainly has its fans, but it’s doubtful there’s much of an audience for a straight-up narrative continuation of those games. With any luck, though, this new title will at least help revive interest in what was always a pretty compelling franchise.